Short Stories 366:139 — “The Haunting of Comiston House,” by Jess Faraday

coverShadow of Justice, a collection of short stories about Constable Simon Pearce, continues to bring a lovely mix of mystery, history, and a queerness-finds-a-way that delights. In the first two tales, we meet Simon Pearce, a gay constable in London of the late 1800’s, and his attempts to be a force for justice in a world that is all to willing to care more for expediency, let alone even pretending to care or protect those who are deemed less worthy. Pearce walks a fine line, knowing often he’s involved in the wrong side as much as he’s trying to act the right way, and also lives with the weight of discovery looming: a queer man would not meet a good end were he outed in the time.

Still, Faraday’s first two mysteries have moved Simon to Edinburgh for the time being, and he’s still there—and happily so, given the encountering of a medical student, Cal, in the previous tale—where he’s working to finish up the investigation of a corrupt official discovered in the second tale. A new mystery, this time involving a seance, potential spirits, and a group of men very much like Simon himself, put the constable to the test on multiple levels.

Simon tries to balance the law with justice, and to keep those like him from going under, a task made all the more difficult when laird comes to Simon about his brother’s “companion,” with the desire for the police to deal with the man’s “undue influence.” It’s very clear what’s happening, at least to Simon, but once he’s in the room with all the players, he starts to see things aren’t as simple as they might appear—especially when it the evening turns out to include Cal, his own “companion.” What follows is another solid mystery from Faraday, and the ongoing arc of Simon considering reaching for lasting happiness, something he’d always shut himself away from previously.

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